For one last night this election season, "debate watching" became the national pastime. All across America and here in New York, people gathered in living rooms and public places to watch the third and final presidential debate. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas attended a Democratic watch party in Albany.
In overwhelmingly Democratic Albany, party faithful congregated at Martel's Restaurant for a debate night get together headlined by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan went on mic just before airtime to stoke the crowd. "As the mayor of a city where one in four of our residents lives in poverty, where we have a large population and a diverse city that we are so proud of, with African-Americans and Latinos and Muslims and people from all over the world, and where more than half of us are women, and where we have a very large LGBT community, and where we have many people who have disabilities, those are all people who have been disparaged and maligned and who have been insulted by the 'other candidate' running for president, and as mayor of this city, it is so important to me, that we don't end up with a president who is going to leave us behind and marginalize us and not care about us."
Sara Niccoli, who is challenging Republican state Senator George Amedore Jr. for the 46th District seat, reminded the crowd: "In 2012, Cecilia Tkaczyk won the race by 18 votes, so every vote really matters..."
Former state Assemblyman and Albany historian Jack McEneny was impressed at the outset of the debate. "For the first so-many minutes, it was about 10 minutes of the hour, it had been relatively presidential. The concern with Donald Trump is that he would not present himself as a presidential personality, and it was, to some people, in my mind, it was Hillary's to lose. They both behaved very professionally."
Meanwhile, on Twitter, thousands of people sent accolades to Fox News’ Chris Wallace, complimenting his role as moderator of the debate. McEneny says it wasn't long before it all fell apart. "We eventually wound up with things like 'she's a nasty woman.' I noticed the negativeness. When you try and look at the substance instead of the style, for a nation that saw with the Bush-Gore race, where the popular vote was so incredibly close and it could have gone either way, it was very important that one side folded and went with the winner. And to have a presidential candidate say, 'well, I'll let you know if I'm going to endorse the winner if it's not me,' that's a scary thing."
Some folks at Martel's talked about splintering in both parties. Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar sees the GOP as more divided while the Democrats are “unifying.” "The left of the party who have may not have been as politically engaged before, are now, thanks in large part to Bernie Sanders. I think it's a really positive thing for the Democratic party going forward, and we can't forget that should Hillary Clinton be the president and the Democrats take back the Senate, Bernie Sanders will be the budget chairman of the United States Senate."
McEneny thinks the GOP split is major. "You have prominent, traditionally elected Republicans flat out saying 'no way am I gonna vote for that person.' These are people with respected titles, people who sit in the Congress. And that's a major split, not a minor defection."
As the debate was coming to an end, Twitter crackled with users lamenting the lack of any question regarding African Americans. Fifth ward Albany City Councilman Mark Robinson had hoped Trump would be quizzed on "stop and frisk." "To be walking down the street and be subject to a stop and frisk, like Dontay Ivy did, and lost his life behind just going to the store, to get a pack of cigarettes, that's just not right in the neighborhood that he lived in."
Congressman Paul Tonko declared Clinton the winner: "Hers was one of strength, one of determination, one of a vision, and so I was very pleased with her response and her performance tonight, if we can call it performance. She conducted herself in a style, with a style that's presidential."
Comptroller DiNapoli agreed: "She was prepared. She was substantive. She had the presence of an executive, of being a president. And Trump was his petulant self. And I think in terms of inspiration, giving a sense of confidence, giving a sense of someone who'll have a firm hand in leadership, Hillary Clinton won the day."
The New York Republican State Committee did not return a call for comment. A Siena College poll of likely New York voters released Wednesday showed Clinton leading Trump 54-30 percent (up a little from 51-30 percent last month), with 5 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 4 percent for Green candidate Jill Stein.